What’s the Difference Between Hard and Soft Water?

Our HVAC Service Experts Explain

Have you ever wondered what the differences are between hard water and soft water? Which is better for your health? Which you should use in your home? Our HVAC service experts are here to answer some of the most popular questions about hard and soft water:

What’s in the water?

Hard water contains dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium that are picked up by the water when it runs through underground pipes. Soft water only contains sodium.

Can I drink hard water?

Yes. Hard water is safe to drink, and can even be considered a dietary supplement for magnesium and calcium.

Why do  people soften their water?

Because hard water contains minerals, the minerals can build up on the surfaces of faucets, in boilers, water heaters, and in household appliances. This build-up (also called scale) can compromise the efficiency of these things. People also soften their water because the minerals in hard water interact with cleaning products and don’t clean as much. Soft water lathers better with soap and detergent.

How does the softening process work?

Water softeners are filled with small polystyrene beads that are negatively charged, but contain traces of sodium. Since calcium and magnesium both carry positive charges, they cling to the beads as the water passes through the tank and sodium ions are released into the water (which is why soft water has a sodium content). The water is then pumped through your home’s faucets.

What’s the difference between temporary hardness and permanent hardness?

When water is considered temporarily hard, it’s because it contains dissolved bits of calcium and magnesium. These can be removed by boiling the water or by treating it with lime. Permanently hard water, on the other hand, has calcium and magnesium sulfates that can’t be removed with heat and must be treated with a water softener in order to be removed.


Water is classified (in the U.S.) by its hardness in “parts per million” or ppm.

Soft water: 0-60 ppm
Moderately hard water: 61-120 ppm
Hard water: 121-180 ppm
Very hard water: more than 181 ppm

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